April 26, 2007
by Geoff Chapman
Despite the ups and downs of a long career, Arlene Smith has kept her instrument intact.
Arlene Smith is one crafty veteran, owner-operator of a classic jazz voice that is most at home singing classic jazz songs.
When you learn she cut her jazz teeth in the early 1950s with Steve Garrick’s big band in Montreal when she was just 15, you have to wonder how she’s preserved that distinctively warm, expressive sound.
She releases her new CD Two for the Road at Opal next Thursday, a rare chance for connoisseurs of fine singing to enjoy her and disc-mate Mark Eisenman on piano plus bassist Steve Wallace. Her third album (following Until Today and Stirred Not Shakin’) offers 16 songbook specials including lesser-known delights such as Cole Porter’s “Down in the Depths on the Ninetieth Floor.”
Of particular note are the appealing “But Not for Me,” an elegant “Some Other Time,” a wry “Everything Happens to Me” and a marvellous “When The World Was Young.” Eisenman has an immaculate idea of piano accompaniment and he perfectly complements the way Smith gets inside a song, projecting its emotional meaning.
The recording came about when jazz lovers John and Patti Loach heard Smith sing in Toronto’s Le Select Bistro and suggested the project. It happened in the Loach studio.
“I’ve always wanted to do a duo, and it was like a private jam session,” she said from her Roseneath, Ont., home on Rice Lake.